I have often found myself driving through town, looking at people’s yards. I look and see things that I like, and things that I don’t like; things I would do with my own yard, and things that I would never allow to happen to my yard.
I don’t have a yard of my own yet, but I can dream, right? Sometimes, I’ll drive by a house that has beautiful trees, or amazing landscaping, and I can’t help but to think, “Wow, this person really knows what they are doing. They must be pretty rich to take such great care of their yard.” And sometimes, I’ll drive by a house where the yard looks more like a wasteland. The grass may be patchy, or not even matching, with yellow spots adorning the yard like leprosy. There are also those yards – you know, in the sketchy places of town – where there is trash in the yard, or a slew of children’s toys, or (heaven forbid) a car on cinderblocks. To these houses, my thoughts are often, “Wow, who in the world would allow their yard to look like this. They must be too lazy to do anything.”
Who doesn’t have thoughts like these? I mean, come on! The yard is the first thing someone sees when company comes over, It’s the way you project who you are to the neighborhood! People almost always automatically assess how your house looks on the inside by how you take care of the outside of your house. If you have toys strewn about the outside, the inside is probably littered with children that like bugs, and even more toys. If there is garbage outside, your trashcan inside is probably overwhelmed, and ill-equipped to handle the amount of things that are thrown into it. If you have spotty grass, maybe you don’t mop, wax or dust often enough? Gosh, how do you live with yourself?!?!
Maybe this is extreme, even a bit judgmental, but really, are they that far-fetched? There is a little bit of truth to some of these thoughts, but sometimes we don’t know the entire story. Yes, if you are too lazy to clean the outside, you are probably too lazy to clean the inside. But sometimes the situation is what the real problem is, and what we see are just symptoms of it.
A lot of times, we tie what we see to worth. Like I said earlier, we may think a person more wealthy if we see a nicely manicured lawn. By the same rule, we may also see another person with an unkempt lawn as lazy, poor or worthless. Neither of these things may be true, though. And that goes for more than just the grass in front of our house.
The things we do, how we look and what we say, all of this can be substituted for a yard. If someone does all the right things, looks all right, and every word that rolls off their tongue is smooth as honey, they are usually taken to be a pretty great person. The opposite sort of person is usually taken to be, well, the opposite. Yeah, we should all strive to be “good” people, but anyone that has tried should know how hard it is. When we try and then fail, we start to assess our own “yard” with the standard of those around us, and we often see ourselves as coming up short. Well, if no ones else does, I know that I do. A lot.
I think everyone struggles with the idea with themselves at some point or another. I mean, how can we not? And maybe it’s a good thing. I hit times where I’m forced to take a good long look at myself and ask the questions, is this who I really want to be? Would the old me be happy at who he has become, or would he rather nothing have changed at all? Sometimes the answers are disappointing. Shame on me for letting things get out of control. The great thing, though, is that our lives are pliable; if things are going badly, usually there is a way to turn it around. If I am fading in one area, I can fertilize and enrich that part of my life so it comes back to life. If I have too many things cluttering up who I am, I can cut them out and do them at a later time, or better yet, get rid of them and never bring them back (it is totally okay to throw things away!). And where I am inconsistent, I can lose the cheap substitutions.
We all know the adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” In life, I’m learning that worth isn’t determined by the condition of the exterior, but rather by the motivation to make things right. No, I don’t believe that we should all have cookie-cutter houses, living in Suburbia. Nor should our lives all look exactly the same. We need to be people whose differences add to the quality of the environment around us. Differences don’t enrich anything when they are polar opposites, though.
So, after reading all of this, maybe you need to take a look around yourself, and ask the hard questions. Are you being a person who is bringing value to the environment around you, or are you lacking in some areas? Are you challenging people to be better, or are you just trying fit in so people don’t look at you for too long. My hope is that you and I can grow to be better, stronger, more motivated people. We may never be perfect, but what is the harm in trying to get there?